My husband came home last night and asked me what made me vulnerable. He had gone to see a therapist that day, and apparently this was one of the questions on the table. If you have ever read or heard Brene Brown, you know that women oftentimes feel the most vulnerable, or at least have the most vulnerability when it comes to issues regarding society’s skewed belief that they need to do everything; work, bring home a good amount of money, the home must be spic-an-span, the children perfectly groomed, mannered and showing remarkable talent in some acceptable area, the husband should be satisfied, and of course, the woman herself should be dressed in the latest fashion, with painted nails, and not a gray hair in sight. Even writing all that made my stomach hurt. Ms. Brown wasn’t the only one to discover that this is women’s Achilles heel, but she is an incredible talent in presenting the data.
I, of course, am lucky in that I am too lazy to have this as my vulnerability. I just don’t have the energy to do it all; and my husband, my gray hair, and my bathrooms pay the biggest price. Sorry, ladies and gentleman but this isn’t mine. Brene Brown does go into what men are most likely to feel vulnerable about, but that is another post.
Ms. Brown talks about the human need for connections, and the vulnerability, or our determined need to never feel good enough, and therefore, unworthy of human connections. She talks about vulnerability as a destructive force when we try and form those human connections, although she also admits that having no vulnerability makes us sociopaths too. So before we all roll our eyes and wonder how we can ever win, I suppose it is time to figure out what it is that makes us vulnerable.
Whenever a question like this pops up, I like to go to my trusty dictionary and look up the definition of the word. I have always found that looking at the word in black and white, puts it in perspective in a way that allows me to concentrate on the truth. I search for the truth routinely, and to find it, I will use any resource available to me.
According to my little sidekick, vulnerable is an adjective, meaning “capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt”; or even “open to attack or damage”. So the question remains, what makes each of us vulnerable, or open to damage? And how does any human allow themselves to be continually open to damage? How do any of us remain vulnerable after taking a spill? (By the way, try and find a working definition of vulnerability. I don’t know if there is one (besides the Red Cross definition) that really captures it – because it is too illusive, or because it is too pervasive?)
I wonder if I am not vulnerable to a thousand things. I had a therapist once who swore there would be a day that I wouldn’t be able to walk, after the constant pushing of all my feelings, my insecurities, and even my truths down into my feet. He used this analogy to make me try and realize that by burying everything I have and everything I am deep inside me, I was literally crippling myself. I wasn’t making myself open to attack; I wasn’t making myself open to anything. Most therapists will tell you that being vulnerable and being open to these attacks, to rejections, even to conflict is how we connect and live as human beings. I say if that is true, I am in a hell of a lot of trouble.
I don’t open myself up to much of anything; I don’t even really allow myself to feel much of anything. Even when the depression comes, like it did last night, I am perfectly capable of working through it until I can hide. I am perfectly able to hold a conversation, to play with my children, to make dinner. I can do all of these, just like any other robot, and then I can go to bed and count the demons haunting me until finally I go to sleep. This is my norm, this is my reality, and possibility this is my vulnerability.
Last night, my first thought was that my vulnerability revolved around my disease. The belief that I am not and never will be a good person because of the disease and medication flowing through my veins. I have a mental illness that strikes fear in some and excitement in others. I have been treated with utter contempt, and even with fear. I have run the spectrum regarding emotions and this disease; some caused by the disease itself, and some caused by my own fear. I hide my disease behind an anonymous blog, and a smile that very rarely is real. Laughter is not part of my life, and the only joy I have these days are the smiles of my children.
But I wonder if my vulnerability, and perhaps even my shame, isn’t much greater than that.
My husband literally has shame in regards to almost every aspect of his life. It is who and what he has always been. This of course makes us a rather pathetic couple, but there is a lot to be learned too. My husband will speak poorly, or at least feel inadequate about most everything, and one learns to turn the other check, forgiving him for setting a bar so high that no one, least of all himself, could ever touch it. He believes with his whole heart that not only is he not good enough, but his past, his present and his future, follows the same.
My father always told me to be where my feet were planted. To neither look into the past or the future for the truth that is right in front of you. I always hated that saying, more because I can’t do it. I constantly am looking around with eyes of sorrow, or even with eyes of regret. My husband does the same.
So if my husband and I have this great vulnerability and this abnormal amount of shame about ourselves and the world around us, what exactly are we going to give our children? Ultimately, what I teach and show my child is literally the most crucial truth in my life. It is what my focus is on, it is what I measure everything against. (Let me be clear and state that it isn’t my children that I am questioning, but rather the lessons I am teaching them) I live my life trying desperately to make my children into anything else other than their mom. My energy is directed into giving them not only the tools of life, but the emotions of life that will create not only beauty but sustainability. I am trying desperately to make sure that they learn first and foremost, the one truth I know, they are wonderful just the way they are.
I read an author the other day who laments in her writings about humans today; their obesity, their addictions, their medications. She wondered out loud, if the very real problems we have today (think politics, starvation, or even the suicidal needs of sociopaths) isn’t a result of our inability to measure up to what society states is perfection. Are we so disconnected by our very real vulnerabilities that we simply cannot function? Are we so disenchanted with our own selves that we have forgotten that light can only be seen when darkness comes? Have we lost touch in our own strengths, our own talents, and buried them in the preconceived notions of those who have no names? Because society isn’t a being, and it isn’t a real truth; it has no substance, and very few facts to make it a science; yet almost every one of us succumbs to the whispers that are not there.
And if society’s opinion, society’s definition of a body’s true worth, is what we measure ourselves against, then how much trouble are we really in? If our loss of connection to others, and our vulnerabilities, are tied to a nameless, faceless idea, then where is the prophet that will finally come to slap us awake?